A place for reflection and introspection, communication and thoughtful conversation.
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
ST PATRICK'S DAY & YEATS
“For the great Gaels of Ireland / Are the men that God made mad, / For all their wars are merry, / And all their songs are sad.” – G.K. Chesterton
Happy St Patrick’s Day! This is a predominantly Irish holiday honouring the missionary credited with converting the Irish to Christianity in the 5th century AD. He was born around 373 AD in either Scotland (near the town of Dumbarton) or in Roman Britain (the Romans left Britain in 410 AD). His real name is believed to be Maewyn Succat . He was kidnapped at the age of 16 by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. During his 6-year captivity, while he worked as a shepherd, he began to have religious visions, and found strength in his faith. He finally escaped, going to France, where he became a priest, taking on the name of Patrick. When he was about 60 years old, St. Patrick travelled to Ireland to spread the Christian word. Reputedly, Patrick had a winning personality, which helped him to convert the fun-loving Irish to Christianity. He used the shamrock, which resembles a three-leafed clover, as a metaphor to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity. Saint Patrick allegedly drove all snakes out of Ireland. This may be an allegory, as the snake was one of the revered pagan symbols.
Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated all around the world in countries with a large Irish migrant population (e.g. Australia and the USA). In these countries people of Irish sympathy wear green and party. Green is associated with Saint Patrick’s Day because it is the colour of spring, Ireland, and the shamrock. Leprechauns are also associated with this holiday, because they figure so prominently in Irish folklore. Leprechauns look like small, old men (about 2 feet tall), often dressed like a shoemaker, with a cocked hat and a leather apron. According to legend, leprechauns are aloof and unfriendly, live alone, and pass the time making shoes... They also possess a hidden pot of gold. Treasure hunters can often track down a leprechaun by the sound of his shoemaker's hammer. If caught, he can be forced (with the threat of bodily violence) to reveal the whereabouts of his treasure, but the captor must keep their eyes on him every second. If the captor's eyes leave the leprechaun (and he often tricks them into looking away), he vanishes and all hopes of finding the treasure are lost.
What's good luck on Saint Patrick’s Day? Finding a four-leaf clover! (That’s double the good luck it usually is). Wearing green: School children have started a little tradition of their own - they pinch classmates who don't wear green on this holiday. Kissing the blarney stone: The Blarney Stone is a stone set in the wall of the Blarney Castle tower in the Irish village of Blarney. Kissing the stone is supposed to bring the kisser the gift of persuasive eloquence (blarney). The castle was built in 1446 by Cormac Laidhiv McCarthy (Lord of Muskerry) - its walls are 18 feet thick (necessary to thwart attacks by Cromwellians and William III's troops). Thousands of tourists a year still visit the castle. The origins of the Blarney Stone’s magical properties are not clear, but one legend says that an old woman cast a spell on the stone to reward a king who had saved her from drowning. Kissing the stone while under the spell gave the king the ability to speak sweetly and convincingly. It is difficult to reach the stone as it is between the main castle wall and the parapet. Kissers have to lie on their back and bend backward (and downward), holding iron bars for support.
An Irish blessing to take with you today: May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow
And may trouble avoid you wherever you go.
Ireland became independent in 1921 after a series of fierce struggles. Dublin is the capital city and other cities include Limerick, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Sligo. The cool wet climate ensures that this is truly an “emerald island” of rich pastures with much livestock, meat and dairy products being produced in abundance. Lead, zinc, peat, oil and natural gas reserves are also being exploited. The population is about 4 million and the area is about 69,000 square km.
And for Poetry Wednesday, an Irish poem by an Irishman:
Red Hanrahan's Song About Ireland
THE old brown thorn-trees break in two high over Cummen Strand,
Under a bitter black wind that blows from the left hand;
Our courage breaks like an old tree in a black wind and dies,
But we have hidden in our hearts the flame out of the eyes
Of Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan.
The wind has bundled up the clouds high over Knock- narea,
And thrown the thunder on the stones for all that Maeve can say.
Angers that are like noisy clouds have set our hearts abeat;
But we have all bent low and low and kissed the quiet feet
Of Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan.
The yellow pool has overflowed high up on Clooth-na-Bare,
For the wet winds are blowing out of the clinging air;
Like heavy flooded waters our bodies and our blood;
But purer than a tall candle before the Holy Rood
Is Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan. William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was born in Dublin. His father was a lawyer and a well-known portrait painter. Yeats was educated in London and in Dublin, but he spent his summers in the west of Ireland in the family's summerhouse at Connaught. The young Yeats was very much part of the fin de siècle in London; at the same time he was active in societies that attempted an Irish literary revival. His first volume of verse appeared in 1887, but in his earlier period his dramatic production outweighed his poetry both in bulk and in import. Together with Lady Gregory he founded the Irish Theatre, which was to become the Abbey Theatre, and served as its chief playwright until the movement was joined by John Synge. His plays usually treat Irish legends; they also reflect his fascination with mysticism and spiritualism. The Countess Cathleen (1892), The Land of Heart's Desire (1894), Cathleen ni Houlihan (1902), The King's Threshold (1904), and Deirdre (1907) are among the best known.
After 1910, Yeats's dramatic art took a sharp turn toward a highly poetical, static, and esoteric style. His later plays were written for small audiences; they experiment with masks, dance, and music, and were profoundly influenced by the Japanese Noh plays. Although a convinced patriot, Yeats deplored the hatred and the bigotry of the Nationalist movement, and his poetry is full of moving protests against it. He was appointed to the Irish Senate in 1922. Yeats is one of the few writers whose greatest works were written after the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. Whereas he received the Prize chiefly for his dramatic works, his significance today rests on his lyric achievement. His poetry, especially the volumes The Wild Swans at Coole (1919), Michael Robartes and the Dancer (1921), The Tower (1928), The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1933), and Last Poems and Plays (1940), made him one of the outstanding and most influential twentieth-century poets writing in English. His recurrent themes are the contrast of art and life, masks, cyclical theories of life (the symbol of the winding stairs), and the ideal of beauty and ceremony contrasting with the hubbub of modern life.
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.